Allison Metz, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist with expertise in child development and family systems and a commitment to improving child and family outcomes and advancing equity. Allison specializes in the implementation of evidence to achieve social impact for children and families in a range of human service and education areas, with an emphasis on child welfare and early childhood service contexts. Allison is Professor of the Practice and Director of Implementation Practice at the School of Social Work, Faculty Fellow at the FPG Child Development Institute, and Adjunct Professor at the School of Global Public Health at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin. Allison previously served as Director of the National Implementation Research Network and Lead of the Implementation Science Division at the FPG Child Development Institute where she also served as a Senior Research Scientist for 13 years. Allison’s research interests include the role of trust, power and relationships in evidence use, competencies for supporting implementation, and co-creation strategies to support sustainable change. She is particularly interested in the development of a workforce for supporting implementation in public systems. Allison is co-chair of the Institute on Implementation Practice and founding director of the Collaborative for Implementation Practice at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work. She is the co-editor of the widely read volume Applying Implementation Science in Early Childhood Programs and Systems.
There is an increasing call for the advancement of a workforce capable of integrating implementation research – models, frameworks, and strategies – into practice to support evidence use, advance equity, and achieve improved population outcomes. Studies have identified plausible competencies for implementation practice (1, 2, 3). This William T. Grant funded study explored the use of competencies by professionals who support evidence use in human service systems and the conditions under which specific implementation strategies were perceived as most effective.
A hybrid purposive-convenience sampling approach resulted in a sample of 17 individuals, each with more than 15 years’ experience providing implementation support. Data were collected via in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Core research questions included: What implementation support strategies are used to support the use of evidence? Under what conditions have specific implementation support strategies contributed to supporting evidence use? Data were analyzed using a qualitative content analysis approach.
Respondents reported using a range of strategies across domains to support evidence-use. Trusting relationships emerged as a ubiquitous fixture of the implementation support process. Respondents described trusting relationships as directly associated with successful implementation and use of evidence and bidirectionally associated with (and reinforcing of) all other implementation strategies.
Findings reflect that implementation support is a multi-faceted endeavor that requires a broad range of skills. Respondents enacted technical strategies (e.g., frequent interactions), while simultaneously carrying out relational strategies (e.g., empathy-driven exchanges). Relationships appear to be as important as technical strategies and may explain why perfectly offered implementation support at times remains unsuccessful in leading to sustained evidence use. Building a workforce capable of supporting evidence-use will require developing skills for building trusting relationships. Findings from this study have resulted in a model for trust building being tested by NJ’s Division of Children and Families with funding from the W.T. Grant Foundation.